Starwood Hotels recently finished the first round of Chinese language and cultural training for 1,000 employees at its four hotels along Waikiki beach in Honolulu.
Apart from learning Mandarin, says Li Wei, director of business development for Starwood Hotels, hotel employees were taught what to do and what not to do in Chinese culture. For instance, Chinese visitors are usually greeted with a handshake, instead of the bowing common to the Japanese, says Li.
Important tips, indeed. Wooing Chinese travellers is increasingly critical to Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy.
“For many years, Japan has been our major overseas market, and Hawaii did a lot to welcome the Japanese to our state. We are now equally excited to have visitors from China,” says Linda Lingle, governor of Hawaii.
Hawaii, also known as the islands of Aloha, is looking to China’s growing outbound tourism market as a much-needed source of income. Officials now expect the number of Chinese tourists to double annually. Around 100,000 are expected next year (to put this in perspective: 1.2 million Japanese visited Hawaii last year).
“With a 9% increase in GDP in the third quarter, China’s continuing economic recovery is critical to the recovery worldwide, as well as to Hawaii’s economy,” says Lingle, who was recently in Beijing.
In an effort to boost tourist numbers, Hainan Airlines will also start flying direct from Beijing to Honolulu, beginning with one flight a week, but increasing the frequency as the market grows.
Currently, mainland tourists have to transfer in Tokyo, or go to the US mainland first.
Meanwhile, for those bored of another tame vacation sunning on the beach, a growing number of Chinese travellers are combining holiday plans with adventure.
Thanks to celebrity spokesmen like Wang Shi, chairman of property developer Vanke, and Wang Qiuyang of Antaerus Group (see last week’s issue), adventure tourism to the Antarctic has grown fashionable in China, says 21CN Business Herald. “Although in the past decade, China had a small number of tourists travelling to Antarctica, we expect high-end adventure tourism to increase at an annual rate of 20%,” says Liu Jie at Hurtigruten, a Norwegian cruise line. According to Liu, about 300 audacious Chinese tourists visit Antarctica every year.
Private tour operator Isis Travel, which caters to Chinese tourists, said its luxury Princess Cruises, which costs Rmb50,000 for a 21-day Antarctic tour, has filled half of its cabins with bookings.
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